Re-1 mill levy passes

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentCrystal River Elementary School teacher Maria Bagby, left, watches the big screen as election results are posted Tuesday evening. She's sitting next to Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent for the Re-1 school district, who searches for results on her cell phone. A dozen Re-1 mill levy override supporters gathered at the Bonfire Coffee Shop in Carbondale on election night.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Roaring Fork School District Re-1’s bid for a mill levy override was one of just a handful of such proposals by school districts around the state to pass in Tuesday’s balloting.

The $4.8 million override measure passed throughout the three-county school district with 59 percent of voters in favor, 4,841 to 3,904, according to unofficial final election results from Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.

“Out of 17 tax initiatives for schools around the state, I was told we were one of two to be successful,” said Vote for Our Kids campaign chairman Matt Hamilton.

Similar measures in Garfield County’s other two school districts, Garfield Re-2 in Rifle and Garfield District 16 in Parachute, both failed in Tuesday’s mail ballot election.

The statewide ballot initiative, Proposition 103, which would have raised state income and sales taxes for education funding, also failed by a huge margin.

“That tells you the climate we were going into,” Hamilton said. “We raised a lot of money to support the campaign, and with that comes a lot of responsibility.”

More than 30 volunteers were on the phone Tuesday calling 700 voters in the district who had not yet cast their ballots, he said.

The off-year election in Garfield County resulted in an impressive 57 percent voter turnout, according to Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico. Of 21,064 ballots sent to eligible voters in the county, 11,926 were returned, she said.

Hamilton, 38, also won a seat on the Re-1 school board in Tuesday’s election. The Carbondale resident was running unopposed for the District B school board seat being vacated by Debbie Bruell.

The $4.8 million Re-1 override is meant to help make up for $5.2 million in state per-pupil funding cuts over the past two years for schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. Those cuts came as a result of state budget shortfalls.

As a result, Re-1 was forced to significantly slash expenses, including salary cuts for teachers, administrators and staff, an ongoing wage freeze. The district also cut 80 full- and part-time staff positions, including 15 teaching positions.

Hamilton said the extra funding will be critical, especially as the state is looking at another $89 million in cuts to K-12 education funding in next year’s budget.

“That’s not as bad as we’ve seen the last few years, but we are still going to be looking at some cuts from the state and some tough decisions for our district,” he said.

The other two new Re-1 school board members elected Tuesday also said the override money will cushion the blow.

“I was openly against the mill levy override, and I did vote against it,” said newly elected District D board member Daniel Biggs, who defeated incumbent Myles Rovig.

“I do plan to be a watchdog on that, and it’s important that we define and broadcast what the plan is for that money,” Biggs said. “We have to be held accountable for that money.”

Added Terry Lott Richardson, who won election to the District C seat over Phil Weir, “I believe it says people are willing to put their money into education. Our job is to use that money to educate the children as best we can.”